Read Remark Book Review - Harmony by Carolyn Parkhurst

Book Review: Harmony by Carolyn Parkhurst

One-sentence summary:
A family sells their house and creates a new home with fellow parents of children with behavioral disabilities.

Harmony starts with hope and optimism.

As we move through the book, we see it’s a wonder there’s even hope and optimism left and that the family is still intact. More than love, the parents have probably stayed together for a while out of necessity and duty.

But Tilly, this challenging child, presents a give and take. She steals the energy and patience of anyone around her. But those who love her, especially her mother, see that beneath the noise, she also has so much to give.

The very things that make Tilly’s life difficult are the things that make her brain capable of so much more.

When you look at some of the great geniuses or creative visionaries of the world, you find that many of them also dealt with afflictions. Depression, Asperger’s, autism, mental illness, addiction…so many things that threatened to sink these people are the same things that made them great. Think about Steve Jobs, Virginia Woolf, Mozart, Sylvia Plath, Ernest Hemingway, Nina Simone, Vincent van Gogh.

Tilly’s mom can see the same potential in her daughter. If she can help her deal with the difficult parts, Tilly can fly. Her wonderful brain has that ability, if they can keep her from self-destructing.

That’s what makes them take the leap to the extended camp, working communally with similar families.

At first, it seems like a cult. But then we see that this strange camp and its child psychologist leader might be the hope they’ve been searching for.

Or not.

In their search for something, the parents are perhaps a bit naive. All of them. They’re a little too trusting of this possibly false prophet.

Then there’s Tilly’s sister, Iris, who gets caught in the middle (or on the outside sometimes). With the constant storm of living under Tilly’s cloud, Iris is often left without an umbrella (metaphorically, of course).

It’s a tough position for her, but you can see the love she has for her sister. Tilly isn’t a storm to Iris. She’s the sun, sometimes burning but always welcomingly bright.

Marketing for Harmony calls this book a triumph of love. While Harmony is beautifully written, that makes it seem more touchy-feely than it is.

Don’t worry – the characters don’t spend the book in a cathartic weepy group hug.

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